“Fathers I Have Loved,” June 11, 2018

The first man I ever loved was my father. I lost him long ago, but countless memories remain, even from when I was a baby. In one of those memories, he leans over my crib, patting my back, singing “Hush, Little Baby” to lull me to sleep. In another, he lifts me up, points to the sky and says, “Look! There’s the Man in the Moon!”

In every memory, I see his lake blue eyes smiling down upon me. Except for when I fell off a horse, or lost the bait on a hook, or had to tell him I couldn’t come live with him, because I had to watch over my mother.

If you’d had the pleasure to know my dad, you’d remember him, too. He was John Wayne, Clark Kent, George Burns, Daffy Duck, a one-of-a-kind unforgettable soul.

At least, that’s who he was when he was with me. Some of us — maybe all — are at our best when we’re with children. They free us to be who we truly are, and accept us, flaws and all.

With adults, Dad was more guarded, especially with my mother. Their marriage ended when I was 2. I have no memory of their being together. My older sister remembers a bit too well and tells me I’m lucky I don’t.

I lived with my mother 40 miles from the farm where Dad lived with his parents, but I often spent time with him on the farm on weekends or holidays or in summer. He sent my mother a check each month to be sure I had lunch money or shoes or just a dollar to spend. A little spending money was good for the soul, he said, but it should be used wisely. He’d give me a nickel and say with a wink, “Don’t spend it all in one place.”

I learned a lot from my dad about fathers. That they can nurture and care for their children, even if they can’t always be with them. That they can be tender-hearted, even with callouses on their hands. That it’s their God-given nature to guide and protect and provide for their families. That they can’t be all things to all people, but they can be what their children need most from them: A father who loves them.

I knew that not all fathers were like that; only the best ones. And I asked God to give my children the very best of all.

It’s often said that women tend to marry men who are very much like their fathers. I’ve looked for my dad’s character in most every man I’ve met — not to father my children, but to be someone I could trust and learn from and enjoy.

My children’s father in many ways was nothing like my dad. But in the ways that mattered most, he was just the best. Ask my kids. They’ll tell you. We lost him to cancer soon after my youngest finished high school. But his great love for his children and his impact upon them lives on in their memories and their characters. As I often remind them, you don’t have to be in the room with someone to know that they still love you.

In my second marriage, I wasn’t looking for a father for my children. But I saw in him the same qualities I had loved in my dad and my first husband. I especially loved the kind of father he was to his two boys. You can tell a lot about the character of guy who keeps paddling a raft on a raging river when everybody else is just hanging on for dear life.

Imagine my surprise after we were married to see him become the best grandpa ever.

I see in my children and my grandchildren glimpses of my father and their fathers. I’ve been blessed to know some great men in my life, and I am thankful for each one of them.

But my heart holds a special place for my first love. I keep a nickel in my wallet and never spend it in one place. I sing “Hush, Little Baby” to lull my grandbabes to sleep.

And at night, when I look up at a star-spattered sky, the Man in the Moon is forever my dad.


  1. MARY DUGGAN says

    I have intended to contact you several times over the years I’ve been reading your column. I never miss reading it in my local Sunday paper. Even if the topic doesn’t apply to happenings in my own life, I still read and enjoy your words. Your gift is painting a picture of life with your words. I have saved a few of your columns, and when I stumble upon them during a purging session, I stop to read & enjoy them again. And they always “make the cut.” That way, next time I’m purging I get to enjoy them again! Thank you for sharing your life!

  2. Thank you !!

  3. Lovely as always, cell screen was small and I read all of it in five minutes.
    My husband is best dad for our kids but I would admit he is not good husband in many ways. May be I am not perfect wife in many ways. I would blame Indian culture though, where men are superior in many ways, I wish I was born in western culture. I feel happy my husband accepted western culture to become best father.

  4. Kate Sciacca says

    Daughters are so blessed to have dads who love and respect them. And who challenge them to be their very best. My dad had four daughters, they all grew into loving, strong willed women. He had a funny way of challenging us to do better, to try harder. He would say (whatever the task at hand) “oh now honey, that’s just toooooo haaaaard for a girl to do!!!” And we would grit our teeth and show HIM what a girl could do…. the twinkle in his eye told us what he was up to – but we all played the game anyway.
    Happy Father’s Day to Papa Mark and your boy… what a joy to be with them this year ?

  5. Sharon Balint says

    Beautiful, Sharon.

  6. I saw a glimpse of grandpa Mark yesterday by the warm way Wiley responded to him and Mark’s listening and gentle response to him.

  7. Elaine Mccaffery says

    Such sweet memories of your dad and all the men in your life. You are right though, not everyone has had men like yours. I have to dig deep to remember the best parts of my dad. Not as many good memories, cause there’s more not so good. But I loved him just the same. He was my dad. Just wished we could have been closer so I could’ve have told him I loved him in spite of everything. He’s been gone a few years now .Heres hoping, he’s in a better place ,and happy Father’s Day to him and all the dads out there.

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